On the Road Again? Pack These Foods.

Skip the fast food and unhealthy roadside fare on your next family road trip and bring these snacks instead.

Growing up, our vacations were road trips to visit family in Toronto or Virginia. Six hours of sitting side-by-side-by-side with siblings, parents and, sometimes, my grandmother—often in a sedan. All of us listening to 1) the same radio station, unhappily; 2) my dad calling every other driver a bastard, and 3) each other repeatedly inquiring how much longer we had to go. So I mostly have repressed the details of these dreadful drives (just kidding, Mom! Love you, Dad!)—but I’m pretty sure that road food meant stopping, halfway, at a McDonald’s in Buffalo or Breezewood.

Now, as a parent, the family roadtrips I plan—to visit my parents, or my husband’s—are double, even triple, the length of those I took as a kid. We allow videos, received happily; we travel in a giant van; and I pack plenty of road food and eating supplies, like this:

Everyone brings a water bottle. And each individual is responsible for refilling it, as needed, at stops.

Pack sandwiches on good bread. We do turkey, cheese and mustard (with a PB&J for our pickier kid) on whole-grain bread,  wrap them in aluminum foil and store them in a small cooler. I’m typically not a sandwich-for-lunch person but there’s nothing better on the road. Packing our own saves money, time—and us from having to settle for fast food, or one of those pre-made sandwiches that always seems weirdly cold and soggy.

Rely on ready-to-eat veggies: We like carrots, cherry tomatoes and snap peas. My kids never eat more vegetables than when they’re captive in a van, hungry, with few other options.

Bring whole fruits that travel well. Apples are great, and pears and grapes and clementines. I always bring a big Ziploc bag to contain cores and peels without mess.

Supplement with snacks. I usually bring one salty and one sweet. Pretzels and Pirate’s Booty are popular with our crew. Often, I pre-portion single servings into baggies (so I don’t house the whole big bag). I also bring two stainless steel bowls, with lids, for easier eating by kids. For a sweet, I pack my go-to homemade chocolate-chip (or leftover [fill in the last holiday] candy) cookies, which I mostly always have stashed in the freezer.

Coffee stops are fair game. Re-caffeinating on the road, in our book, is simply being a responsible driver—and navigator. Safe travels!